NJPP urges Christie to expand Medicaid eligibility

TRENTON – A new report urges the state to increase Medicaid coverage eligibility, estimating that up to 176,970 New Jersey workers who lack insurance could gain it.

New Jersey Policy Perspective said in a report issued today that one quarter of New Jersey’s uninsured adult working population could gain coverage through a provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows states to expand Medicaid to cover adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level.

That would be $15,414 for an individual and $26,344 for a family of three, reports NJPP.

The report, “Another Reason to Expand Medicaid,’’ argues that Medicaid can be better than private insurance, “because it limits out-of-pocket costs like co-pays and deductibles that can make having private insurance such a financial strain.”

The report states that the percentage of New Jersey residents with employer-based insurance dropped from 76.9 percent in 2001 to 65.1 percent in 2011, a decrease of 11.8, compared to a decline of 10 percentage points nationally.

The report lists occupations that have the greatest number of uninsured employees, such as restaurant/food service, 26,810; construction, 20,490; landscaping, 8,970; and building support/janitors, 6,250.

Factors contributing to the problem include the high cost to employers of providing insurance as well as the increasing number of part-time workers, the report states.

Dena Mottola Jaborska, director of Organizing for New Jersey Citizen Action, a coalition of about 60 oganizations, said today that if eligibility is expanded, “it is the hardest-working people who would stand to gain.”

These are working men and women, she said, who have paid into the program just like anyone else, and who people rely on daily for all sorts of routine things: cutting lawns, dining out, and more.

One of those working people who would stand to benefit is Danielle Sacripanpe, a 55-year-old graphic arts designer who said she will need to rely on charity care for surgery for degenerative arthritis in her hips.

She said she has been “drastically” underemployed since 2008, at one point stuck with a “minimal health benefit plan that literally left me working for free.”

Sacripanpe sought to dispel myths about who would be affected by a Medicaid eligibility expansion. 

“These are educated adults working multiple low-paying jobs,’’ she said. “Don’t assume only poor people need health care. We do, too.”

“Hopefully the governor will have a heart,” said Patty Poinsette, a day-care provider who along with her husband suffers from diabetes.  She said they tried to use COBRA for health insurance, but it was almost $900 a month and that was too expensive.

She said they applied for charity care, but even that does not always provide enough assistance, and NJPP officials said that charity care, and especially resorting to hospital emergency rooms, is the most expensive type of care, driving up health care costs overall.

Report author Ramond Castro of NJPP and Kevin Brown, New Jersey Area Director, SEIU Local 32BJ, which represents about 10,000 service workers, said 16 other states already have OK’d an expansion.

“It’s important to make the decision as soon as possible,’’ Castro said, because there needs to be a coordinated outreach to inform people of their eligibility.

NJPP urges Christie to expand Medicaid eligibility